Hello my friends, and welcome to the ninety-second edition of RPGamer's Currents column!
The day has finally come. This will be my last column as RPGamer's Currents Columnist. I tried to put together a good one for you, but you'll have to be the judge of that.
I forgot to mention this in my last column (Internet Telegraphy, in which I was forced to guest-host with Lusipurr through a telegraph), but I actually finished Persona 3 over a week ago! If you had a sharp eye, you may have noticed that it wasn't in my "Now Playing" list. It took me approximately ninety hours, and ate my whole summer, but it was SO worth it. I can't wait for Persona 4, and after I've had a short respite, I will dive into The Answer.
In the meantime, I've been trying to finish up Fire Emblem for the GBA, and I've spent quite a bit of time on Soul Calibur IV. Fire Emblem becomes quite a bit more difficult in the later chapters, which is most definitely a good thing. The first 20-25 chapters are all cakewalks.
And now, on to the NEWS!
Buy the Game, or be Responsible for the Death of a Town
Myself being a heartless bastard, I likely still won't buy it
Too Human is a saga in and of itself. No, I'm not referring to the game's storyline. I'm referring to its uncannily tumultous development time, and the numerous controversies that have plagued it from nearly the beginning. Now that the game has finally seen release, let's see how it's been received.
At the time of this writing, Too Human has been available for purchase in North America for approximately two hours. However, several gaming sites have (presumably) completed and reviewed the title -- and, as this GameRankings page implies, none of the reviews have been overly favorable.
The aggregate ranking currently stands at a meager 69%. The lowest score is a 5.5 out of 10 from GameSpot, and the highest is a 4 out of 5 from GamePro. Thus far, one of the most shocking things I've heard is that the main game can be completed in a measly ten hours. If you like replaying levels in hopes of garnering better loot, that number will likely skyrocket, but if you were to play through the main story - which has been sold as the game's most prominent aspect - you'll be done in ten hours. I don't know if that's necessarily true, but if it is, that sucks. No way around it, that SUCKS. Ten years of development, and we get ten hours of story? Did they program one hour every year?
Who knows, perhaps the game's short length is greatly exaggerated. Even if that's the case, the plot itself has been universally lambasted. As I mentioned before, the game's weird sci-fi retelling of Norse mythology has long been touted as its greatest feature. And yet, according to every review I've read, it's the game's greatest failure.
I concede that this is just a lot of musing on my part. I'm just reacting to the reviews I've read online. Perhaps it's not as bad as all that. Perhaps RPGamer's forthcoming review will be more favorable. Or, perhaps, after all this time, Too Human still wasn't ready to be released.
According to Dennis Dyack, the game's illustrous creator, if you have any sort of decency about you, you'll purchase Too Human. Why? Because the fate of two towns in Ontario rest upon the game's success, that's why! From an interview with The Inquirer:
"If Too Human does what we expect it will (in the marketplace), then it can change the world for St. Catharines and Niagara," Dyack said Friday from his office at One St. Paul Street.
...There is a great deal riding on the success of Too Human for Silicon Knights, which employs 160 people. If the game is a hit, it will not only allow the company to grow, but will fuel Dyack's larger agenda for the city and region.
"I've said this before. I want to see a campus here in Niagara dedicated to interactive information technology," he said.
Dyack sees Niagara as suffering from a kind of inferiority complex that keeps it from reaching its full potential. The problem is compounded by the steady decline of the manufacturing sector. Video-game development and its associated industries might help build a new knowledge-based economy for the region, Dyack said.
I think Dennis Dyack may possibly have a larger mouth than Peter Molyneux, and that's saying a helluva lot. And, similar to Fable, Too Human is suffering as a result. Too Human is likely a good game with plenty of its own merits. The problem is that these merits aren't necessarily the things that Dyack has been running his mouth about for the last decade. I'll be interested in seeing how some real RPGamers (read: my co-workers here at the site) will react to the game, and whether or not they'll agree with the mediocre reviews the game has received.
Oh, and Microsoft has a pretty big mouth too, it would appear. Just listen to this statement from their UK head of gaming, Stephen McGill:
Microsoft Game Studios and Silicon Knights are committed to finishing the first installment, but Too Human is an overarching epic with a rich and vast game universe that cannot be told in one installment. This game will begin the saga of the god Baldur in the narrative tradition of classic trilogies, such as Star Wars and Lord Of The Rings. We will talk about the full trilogy and we are very excited about its potential.
To breathe the name of Too Human in the same breath as The Lord of the Rings and even Star Wars is very bold indeed. Too bold, if you ask me. If a second and third Too Human does come along, they had best deliver in ways that this first installment did not.
North American Release Still Unconfirmed
Comes with bonus Advent Children disc, bahahaha
RPG demos generally suck. That's what I've learned, based on the ones I've played. Will FFXIII's forthcoming PS3 demo break this tradition? Let's hope so, because according to the latest issue of Famitsu, it's going to be long. Upwards of two hours, in fact. It will be based on the opening segment of the game.
As I'm sure you know, the demo will come packed with the Blu-Ray extended cut of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, set for release in Japan in March of 2009. (The demo will be on a separate disc, in case you were wondering.) The running time of this extended cut still hasn't been confirmed, but unless a considerable amount of footage has been added, the FFXIII demo will actually be longer than the movie it's packaged with. That's a funny thought, isn't it? No doubt about it, many RPGamers will be purchasing (and importing) the film mainly for this demo. I know that's what I'll be doing.
Tales of Vesperia Fuels Sales
The proverbial ten seconds of fame
The Japanese love them some Tales games. The Xbox 360, the least loved of the current generation consoles in Japan, outsold the PlayStation 3 during the week ending August 10. Microsoft's console sold an impressive 24,962 units that week, almost five times the amount sold the previous week, and well above the PS3's 9,673 unit tally for the week.
Obviously this is linked to the recent release of Namco's Tales of Vesperia, the latest in the long-running action RPG series. Tales of Vesperia has become the fastest-selling Xbox 360 game in Japan, pushing 108,000 units in its first week on the market. It was also the fourth best-selling game on the market that week. However, while the 360's boost in sales is nothing to sneeze at, it's important to note that it was still ranked fourth in hardware sales for the week. The DS, PSP, and (of course) the Wii continued to dominate.
The PS3's last remaining advantage over the 360 is its comparative dominance in the Japanese market. This Tales-infused boost isn't quite enough to turn the tables, but who knows... could it be the start of something bigger? There are quite a few JRPGs on the way to the Microsoft's console. If Infinite Undiscovery, The Last Remnant, and Star Ocean 4 aren't enough to sway Japanese gamers, I'm not sure what will.
UPDATE: Xbox 360 Completely Sold Out in Japan
Apparently, Japan didn't have more than 25,000 360's in stock. According to a statement from Microsoft, the Xbox 360 has completely sold out in Japan, and no new units are due to ship until September. "Here at Microsoft, we are moving forward quickly with console production, and plan to ship the standard Xbox 360 model out this September. Furthermore, we will sequentially be shipping out the Elite and the Arcade models. We ask that you please patiently wait until the console is shipped," the company said.
GTA IV, MGS4 Fuel Profits
In other news, we're supposed to be in recession
GameStop. Love them or hate them, it really doesn't matter. They're raking in the cash, and they probably will continue to do so for a long time coming.
The retailer recently announced that they had hit record sales for the three months ended August 2, with net earnings up 162.1 percent to USD 57.2 million, and sales up 34.8 percent to USD 1.8 billion. GameStop's Chairman and CEO, Richard Fontaine, had this to say:
In the second quarter, we produced record revenues in each of the geographical regions where we operate.
By prioritising our investments and focusing our resources, GameStop continues to significantly outperform the speciality retail segment as a whole, when comparing top-line growth, comparable store sales, and net earnings growth.
Sales across GameStop's 5557 stores were up 20 percent, while new software sales rose 43 percent. The best-selling titles for the quarter were (unsurprisingly) Grand Theft Auto IV, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, NCAA Football 09, Wii Fit, and Battlefield: Bad Company
160GB Model Coming in November
WHERE DOES IT END
Another convention, another PS3 SKU. That's the way it's been since the system's original release back in 2006, and Sony upheld this
fine tradition at their GC press conference in Leipzig.
Sony will release a new, 160GB PS3 in Europe on October 31. It will have all the specs of the current 80GB model (read: no backwards compatibility), and will come packed with over $100 worth of downloadable extras. SCEE CEO David Reeves described it as being "for fans of all the PlayStation Network's high-quality downloadable content." Yeah, BIG fans, apparently.
And yes, for the four of you who care, this SKU will be coming to North America, according to recently-released info on the PlayStation Blog. Rather than downloadable extras, the North American release will come packed with a copy of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, and a voucher that will allow purchasers a free download of Pain. The bundle will retail for $499.99.
GAAAHHH, NO CARE ABOUT MORE HARD DRIVE SPACE! WANT BACKWARD COMPATIBILITY! NO MORE POINTLESS MODELS AND BUNDLES, SHOULD HAVE STUCK WITH ORIGINAL TWO!
When will it end? When will it end? Consumers already don't have a damn clue what to expect when they purchase a PS3 from their local retail store. Who knows, maybe that's exactly what Sony wants.
Improved Screen Quality, Built-In Microphone Included
Why couldn't this have happened six months ago?
"What, Oliver Motok finally bought a PSP? Excellent. Move forward on the plans for a NEW and IMPROVED model." (I swear, sometimes I think that's exactly what happens whenever I make an expensive purchase.)
Remember those photos that surfaced a few months ago? Well, apparently they were legit. Sony has recently announced that the PSP-3000 will be released in Europe on October 15 for the price of 199 Euros (USD 291.67). Two major upgrades will be made, the most prominent being an enhanced LCD screen. According to Sony, the screen will feature improved color reproduction, which will make your games prettier as well as reduce screen glare from sunlight. The second feature is a built-in microphone, which will allow you to make Skype calls without using the PSP's headset. A less noteable feature is the addition of the "PlayStation Button," which looks all but identical to the button on the PS3 controller, and will replace the "Home" button.
The PSP-3000 will come in eight different hardware bundles in Japan, each featuring a different game. Among the titles are Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, FIFA Soccer 09, and Buzz! Master Quiz.
And yes, the PSP-3000 will be released in North America in October, according to the PlayStation Blog. (A link to the blog is in the previous story.) It will be available in two bundles, one being the previously announced Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters Entertainment Pack, and the other being a new, 4GB Memory Entertainment Pack. Like the name implies, the bundle will include a 4GB Memory Stick PRO Duo. Both bundles will retail for $199.99, and Sony has confirmed that a $179.99 stand-alone pack will be released at a later date. Of note is the fact that this redesign will be identical in size to the current PSP Slim model.
Meh. An enhanced screen would certainly be nice, but I don't see myself dropping $200 just for that and a microphone. But wait, there is that thinner ring... damn, I'm sold.
But Not for Us, Sadly
Why? Just... why?
The Xbox 360's D-pad sucks. We've known this for quite some time. It has been a victim of constant internet ridicule for years now. And yet, Microsoft has refused to do anything about it for the longest time. And now that they finally have, they still fail.
Microsoft has announced that a new Xbox 360 controller with an enhanced D-pad will be released on October 24. This new D-pad will be capable of recognizing 2 directions of input. The catch? It's a "limited edition promotional item that is only available in Europe, Asia and Latin America while supplies last." In other words, we Americans won't be seeing it, which means that playing Soul Calibur IV on the 360 will continue to suck. There is a rumor running about that the controller could possibly be bundled with the North American release of Street Fighter IV, but it's just that -- a rumor.
Oh well, there's always eBay, I guess. I really can't understand why Microsoft wouldn't give us this new controller. It's such a practical and useful upgrade that everyone wants, and everyone would use. Who knows? Give it time. It might happen.
4 year-old's GTA Cake
Somewhere, Jack Thompson is sobbing.
QUICKIES: In Which I Make Passing Mention of Some Relatively Small, But Inherently Awesome News Stories!
Flee while you can...
Tecmo President Steps Down
Well, this doesn't look suspicious at all. I'm sure many of you are familiar with the lawsuit that Ninja Gaiden creator Tomonobu Itagaki filed against Tecmo a few months back, demanding recompense for unpaid bonuses. This was followed up by another suit from a few other Tecmo employees who claimed they were not paid overtime. The suit has yet to be settled, but apparently Yoshimi Yasuda has no desire to be Tecmo's president when the verdict comes in. As of September 1, he will be leaving the company, and Chairman of the Board Yasuharu Kakihara will be taking his place.
Tales of Hearts Gets Two Editions
Who else was taken aback when it was revealed the upcoming Tales of Hearts for the Nintendo DS would feature CGI cutscenes, in the vein of the Final Fantasy series? Perhaps it's just me, but they seem horribly out of place in the anime-inspired world that the Tales games are known for. But worry not, for Namco has recently announced that gamers will be able to choose what style of cutscenes the game has! Tales of Hearts will be released in two different editions in Japan: the Anime Movie Edition and the CG Movie Edition. Both are exactly what they sound like; the Anime edition will feature the traditional hand-drawn cutscenes the series is known for, and the CGI edition will feature the newfangled CGI cutscenes. Other than their presentation, the cutscenes will be identical. Furthermore, the games themselves will feature no differences outside of the cutscenes. Tales of Hearts is set for release in Japan this December. Of course, no North American release has been confirmed, or even hinted at.
Jamil Moledina Steps Down
Jamil Moledina, Executive Director of the Game Developer's Conference, has resigned from his position and left the company behind the event. Right now, all we know is that he will be "pursuing other interests." Meggan Scavio, who has worked on the GDC for eight years now, will continue on as Event Director. I don't know a terrible amount about Mr. Moledina, but I imagine that his departure will be mourned by many.
Voter Registration Coming to Xbox 360
Yes, it's exactly what it sounds like. Rock the Vote, a youth-centric political advocacy group, is partnering with Microsoft to provide Xbox 360 users with a special forum, as well as allow them to participate in election-predicting polls, and even register to vote through their Xbox 360. "We need to go where young Americans are," said Rock the Vote's Executive Director Heather Smith, "and there's no doubt in our minds that many are on Xbox 360 and Xbox LIVE." In addition, Microsoft will be at both the Democratic and Republican conventions this year, attempting to educate our politicians about gaming. (Good luck.)
And... that's it. We've reached the end, for the final time. My only regret is that Jack Thompson wasn't able to make an appearance this week.
Well, you can never tell the future. Perhaps this is not my last Currents column. If there is great need, or if I have a little extra time on my hands, I might sneak over here and write one. However, this column officially ends my tenure as THE CURRENTS COLUMNIST. For those keeping track, this is my thirty-first column, although that includes the June 12 edition, which was not a real column. So I'd like to think that I ended on the nice, even number of thirty.
FARE THEE WELL, everyone! And remember, I'm not entirely gone! Check out our Q&A column to experience my great sagacity and wit on a weekly basis! And send some letters!
Send me a letter!